The Carpetbaggers Were Pretty Rad

I don’t mean to pick on Joni Balter here. Most people writing about a possible Dennis Kucinich Congressional run in Washington use the same dumbass term.

Republicans would love to run against Kucinich in a suburban congressional district because he is a fringe liberal sporting a carpetbagger label.

Look, if I still lived up North, I’d probably prefer Rodger Goodman or Marko Liias. I supported Ruderman before Inslee got in the race in 1998 and would certainly be willing to look at someone else. There’s a rich field of candidates to draw from, so it’s not like we need Kucinich. Nevertheless, I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to run from somewhere else.

And in fact the original carpetbaggers were pretty fucking awesome. After the Civil War, of course, many people from the North went South to seek out the new political climate of freedom and racial integration imposed by the Federal government. The people who went into elected office were smeared as carpetbaggers by their opponents. People like Adelbert Ames, a hero at Bull Run and Gettysburg who was appointed to the governorship of Mississippi during reconstruction before winning election to the US Senate and the governor’s office outright. While I probably wouldn’t agree with all of his policies, where it mattered the most, he was right: “he took several steps to advance the rights of freed slaves, appointing the first black office-holders in state history.”

But in the history of the Reconstruction South, the Carpetbaggers lost. After Ames won election as governor, political violence overtook the state. Appeals to the Federal government fell on deaf ears, and eventually he resigned under threat of impeachment and possible violence. And political violence won out throughout the South. The worst case was Colfax.

On April 13, 1873, violence erupted in Colfax, Louisiana. The White League, a paramilitary group intent on securing white rule in Louisiana, clashed with Louisiana’s almost all-black state militia. The resulting death toll was staggering. Only three members of the White League died. But some 100 black men were killed in the encounter. Of those, nearly half were murdered in cold blood after they had already surrendered. The incident once again showed President Ulysses S. Grant how hard it would be to guarantee the rights and the safety of blacks in the South.

Louisiana whites formed their own “shadow” government and their own army, the White League. The White League, similar to the Ku Klux Klan, intimidated and attacked Republicans and blacks all over the state. While the worst violence occurred in Colfax, other incidents were sparked in Coushatta, when the White League murdered six Republicans, and in New Orleans, when 30 were killed and 100 more wounded.

In response to these incidents and others throughout the South, President Grant ordered federal troops to restore order. But most of the relief was temporary. After Colfax, the federal government convicted only three whites for the murders. In the end, they were freed when the U.S. Supreme Court declared that they had been convicted unconstitutionally.

The plaque commemorating the incident, put up by the state of Louisiana, still says “On this site occurred the Colfax Riot in which three white men and 150 negroes were slain. This event on April 13, 1873 marked the end of carpetbag misrule in the South.”

So that’s in a nutshell my problem with using carpetbagger as an attack. While obviously Balter and other political commentators aren’t trying to evoke the political violence and racial hatred that ended reconstruction, it’s there in the word. It means something more than just an outsider.

Comments

  1. 1

    Michael spews:

    Um… Considering he hasn’t even moved here yet isn’t it a little silly to be thinking OMG… He’s a carpet bagger.

    “Kucinich came to Washington for May Day, generated a ton of please-go-away press, but returned a week or so ago, patronizing and clueless as that might seem.”

    Maybe he’s a politician so politicking goes on where ever he goes and he’s looking into buying a vacation or retirement place. Or maybe, he wants to see what we’ve done right and see if he can bring some of that back to Ohio, they sure as fuck need it. Ohio’s in bad shape.

    A lot of the carpet baggers were rich people who sat out the war; in the north you could pay someone to take your place in the draft. Carpet baggers did do good things in the south they were mostly opportunists. A lot of folks in the south lost their right to run for office or vote. The south also lost a huge chunk of it’s population and the remaining population was flat broke and starving. A northerner with some cash could (and did) make out like a bandit.

    Just one more example of the rich folks taking advantage of the working class…

  2. 2

    Michael spews:

    “The idea of a sitting elected official from one state running for office in a different state,

    I think is incredibly unique

    and fundamentally offensive,” said state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz.

    Apparently, Dwight Pelz is unaware that Hillary Clinton served as a senator from New York, a place where she had no roots at all.

  3. 3

    K spews:

    She was not a sitting elected in one state running in another.

    And New York had previously elected a senator from elsewhere- Bobby Kennedy.

  4. 4

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    “In the end, they were freed when the U.S. Supreme Court declared they had been convicted unconstitutionally.”

    Historically, SCOTUS has always been a reactionary influence in American society.

  5. 5

    Michael spews:

    @3

    She was not a sitting elected in one state running in another.

    Ah… I missed the word sitting.

  6. 6

    spews:

    Insley’s District ain’t Cleveland and while I would certainly like to see a more impressive spokesman for liberal causes than the more than a bit dim McBulb we have now, I find it hard to imagine why Kucinich would think an affluent suburb of an affluent city would be a good place to transplant his rose bush?

  7. 7

    proud leftist spews:

    Maybe Kucinich is just sick of Cleveland. I’ve only been there once and that was enough for several lifetimes.

  8. 9

    Proud To Be An Ass spews:

    The carpetbagger label I can live with, it’s the characterization of Dennis as a “fringe liberal” that is appalling. But then Joni is a fringe journalist.

  9. 12

    Politically Incorrect spews:

    I intend to write-in Kucinich for vice-president in the 2012 election. I’ll write-in Ron Paul for president.

    I’ll never again vote for a Republican or a Democrat. (Yes, I realize Paul and Kucinich are ostensibly a Republican and a Democrat, respectively, but even their own parties would like to see them just go away. So, for the purpose of a write-in ballot, I don’t consider Ron Paul to be a Republican nor Dennis Kucinich a Democrat.)

  10. 13

    Right Stuff spews:

    Career Politician looking to keep his gig.
    He lives in Washington DC. That’s his home.
    He has no ties here in WA State. I hope the people in the district understand that he just wants to keep the his Ohio is losing. He will be representing himself, not the people of the district.

  11. 14

    Right Stuff spews:

    Career Politician looking to keep his gig.
    He lives in Washington DC. That’s his home.
    He has no ties here in WA State. I hope the people in the district understand that he just wants to keep his seat Ohio is losing. He will be representing himself, not the people of the district.

  12. 15

    rhp6033 spews:

    I think I was the first to use “carpet bagger” on this board, with respect to Kucinich’s potential move here. But I have to agree it is certainly an inappropriate exaggeration, given the history and “baggage” behind the term (pun not intended).

    Some northern immigrants to the South following the Civil War did indeed have good intentions, including those that established and taught at the “freedmen’s schools”.

    But the perjorative term was coined to describe those who came south to take advantage of the economic disaster in the South which followed the Civil War. Large portions of some cities were burned, including Atlanta, Columbia S.C., and Richmond. Many families found their homes, barns, and cribs burned, and the harvest which was expected to last them through the fall had been stolen or burned. Family savings were destroyed, including those held in Confederate currency, as well as stock certificates in southern businesses, railroads, or life insurance companies. Northern profitters took advantage of this situation by buying up unpaid tax warrants, mortages, etc. in order to purchase southern homesteads, businesses, etc. for pennies on the dollar – using foreclosure to get the property if the owner wouldn’t sell.

    By the way, the riot in New Orleans was surpressed with the use of black (known then as “Coloured” troops led by an old army buddy of President Grant – former Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, whom Lee had called “my old war-horse”. President Grant had given Longstreet the position of U.S. Marshall for New Orleans, if I remember correctly.

  13. 16

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    13,14 — I’d rather be represented by a professional politician than by a bungling amateur. I mean, you would go to a truck driver for brain surgery?

  14. 17

    rhp6033 spews:

    “Northern profitters took advantage of this situation by buying up unpaid tax warrants, mortages, etc. in order to purchase southern homesteads, businesses, etc. for pennies on the dollar – using foreclosure to get the property if the owner wouldn’t sell.”

    I just realized that the despised northern carpet-baggers weren’t that much different from the frequent Republican candidate, Dino Rossi, who interrupted his career of advising fellow Republicans how to make a killing off people’s misery by buing foreclosure properties for pennies on the dollar, to run for Governor last election. It’s no wonder that the “Solid South” stayed Democratic for so long – until Richard Nixon promised to give up the black vote in exchange for the vote of bigots and the fearful from 1968 onward.

  15. 18

    Proud to be an Ass spews:

    “Northern profitters took advantage of this situation by buying up unpaid tax warrants, mortages, etc. in order to purchase southern homesteads, businesses, etc. for pennies on the dollar – ……..”

    But, but, but….that’s free enterprise in action. Wealth creation! Zig Ziglar and Robert Allen learned from this and marketed these principles to millions of acolytes. Taking advantage of somebody else’s misery should give you a woody and/or nocturnal emissions.

    Are you some kind of fucking Communist?

  16. 19

    what? spews:

    in the UK they let members of parliament move around and when a rising star loses the party finds them a new district. they’re a bit more professional. looking at the UK I can’t say ou society is all that more just or successful, can you? they have national health care and lots of stuff we don’t have. one famous MP who did this moving around then went on to basically keep the nazis out of UK and lead the war against the nazis until the americans belatedly joined in the struggle. How can we fault a system that produces a leader like that?

    “Our way” often isn’t the only way, or the best way, and it’s rather parochial and juvenile to reflexively support The Way We Do Stuff Here as if this is the ozarks and some “outsider” is going to come and harm us. he’d have to win an election right? so he’d only win if a majority vote for him right? I think they can figure it out and if people think his ability to pronounce mulkytheo is more important than figuring out the entire usa economy taxes the budget and jobs, then fuck we deserve the crappy representation we have in congress.

  17. 20

    Libertarian spews:

    at 16,

    “Politician” was not a career the Fouding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the Constitution. Public service was supposed to be a short-term deal. Since the life expectancy was much lower back in 1800, there weren’t that many “career” politicians around. As life expectancy increased, the people motivated to be in politics became addicted to the power and “prestige.” In short, they became elitists in a nation where we all were supposedly “created equal.”

    Let’s face it – our politicians are power junkies who can’t give it up. We desperately need term limits (House, Senate & Supreme Court) to get rid of these arrogant elitists.